10th November 2022
15th September 2022
We have been contemplating the huge job in front of King Charles III. We reminded ourselves what an able man he has shown himself to be over the years. Us being us, we looked to sport for the clues. We all know what a great polo player and general equestrian he was. We’ve seen him […]
21st July 2022
How proud would these pioneers of women’s football from 1918 be to see England’s Lionesses perform in the Women’s Euros 2022?! When this Scottish women’s team played in 2018, they would have rightly believed they had already come far. Despite attempts to set up and build up women’s football in the nineteenth century, it was […]
We have been contemplating the huge job in front of King Charles III. We reminded ourselves what an able man he has shown himself to be over the years. Us being us, we looked to sport for the clues. We all know what a great polo player and general equestrian he was. We’ve seen him skiing, sailing, windsurfing and fishing. Less well known was his success on the cricket field.
Following in his father, the Duke of Edinburgh’s footsteps, Charles was an enthusiastic and able cricketer. In 1971 he arrived on horseback, all padded up for a cricket match at Cranwell in Lincolnshire. Prince Charles was in an RAF team against the Lord’s Taverners. He batted gamely and scored 17 runs but was bowled by the recently retired Surrey and England cricketing legend, Ken Barrington. Undeterred Prince Charles returned to the crease to bowl 7 overs and wreaked revenge on Ken Barrington by bowling him out.
We wish the new King continued success, going forward. Is it a sign of the power he might have that England won a Test series against South Africa two days into the start of his new reign?!
How proud would these pioneers of women’s football from 1918 be to see England’s Lionesses perform in the Women’s Euros 2022?!
When this Scottish women’s team played in 2018, they would have rightly believed they had already come far. Despite attempts to set up and build up women’s football in the nineteenth century, it was World War One that gave women’s footballers the push they needed. Up until then, too many people still believed that football was still very much a man’s game and women playing it was viewed as unseemly.
In World War One, however, many women worked together in factories for the first time. They were encouraged to keep fit for work. So they banded together to form football teams and fill the football stadiums that the men had left behind them as they went off to fight. By 1920 a Boxing Day football match between England’s top female teams, Dick, Kerr Ladies v St Helen’s, filled Everton’s Goodison Park stadium with 10,000 turned away at the gates.
But women’s football became a victim of its own success. Feeling threatened, possibly, by the success of women’s football and what effect that might have on men’s football after World War One, the FA issued a ban on 5th December 2021. No member club could let women’s teams play on their grounds. They claimed that women’s teams had siphoned off money they raised for charity for their expenses. They encouraged some doctors’ views that playing football might be bad for a woman’s body and might even stop a woman becoming pregnant.
The FA stuck to its edict. In 1947 the Kent County FA suspended a referee because he also trained a women’s football team. It was only in 1971 that the FA finally lifted their ban against women’s football. How we’d love to go back and tell all those women footballers, who persevered despite all obstacles, that in 2022 the BBC delayed the News at 10 so that we could all watch the end to another thrilling Lionesses’ game (depending on how far back we went, we might have a struggle explaining the BBC’s News at 10 first!).
It’s just not cricket…or is it? Cricket as a sport has always been seen as one steeped in good manners. In recent years, however, we have all lived through incidents of ball tampering and match fixing in recent cricket matches. Is this a recent phenomenon? Or despite cricket’s gentlemanly reputation, has cunning behaviour been a part of the sport since its beginning?
One of the sport’s earliest organised matches was between Chertsey and the world’s first cricket club, Hambledon. Hambledon had an extremely strong team, including leading bowler, Thomas Brett, and captain, Richard Nyren. They hadn’t bargained on a genius batsman from Chertsey however. Thomas ‘Shock’ White came out to bat…with a bat as wide as the stumps! At that point, a bat as wide as you like was perfectly legal. It hadn’t yet occurred to anyone to play with an outrageously wide bat or to restrict their dimension. Funnily enough, Hambledon quickly put in a formal written protest and by 1774 the Laws of Cricket had been changed. The legal width of a bat was restricted to today’s maximum size of 10.8 cm.
One of the greatest cricketing names in history had a slightly questionable reputation for ‘gentlemanly behaviour’: W G Grace. Grace was known to be a notorious sledger – generally frowned on if not actually illegal in cricket. The great batsman was also said to have at times ignored being bowled out. He simply replaced the bails after a bowler had disturbed his wicket and carried on batting regardless. He was claimed to have told the ‘offending’ bowler, “They’ve come to watch me bat, not you bowl”, which may have been fair comment too. Obviously we all want well behaved, legal cricket teams to support and matches to watch but nothing beats a cricket match nailbiter to watch, especially with a bit of controversy thrown in too!
The use of puns in the titles of sports books, particularly biographies, is nothing new. 1951 gave us Plum Warner’s “Long Innings” and Jim Laker’s “Spinning Round The World”, and so a new tradition was established. Ever since these early attempts at punnery any sportsperson who was tempted to put pen to paper, however misguidedly, could tap into the rich resource thrown up by unusual sporting terms and phrases. To be honest, the vast majority need more than just a promise of dressing room banter and blow by blow accounts of their on-field triumphs to help sell their books. If Steve Davis had called his autobiography simply “My Story” or “I won Lots of Snooker Matches” instead of “Frame and Fortune” life could have been very different.
Often the pun gives a clue to the sport involved – “A Game to Love” by – surprise, surprise – tennis’ Ann Jones, Bernhard Langer’s “While the Iron is Hot”, “Life in the Fast Lane” by Eddie Irvine and “Another Hurdle” by David Hemery. It can also relate to the role or position that the subject played in his/her chosen sport. Who can guess what the subjects of these books did for a living? “The Breaks Are Off”, “Running Commentary”, “I Declare”, “Right Back To The Beginning”, “In The Long Run” and “In Safe Keeping” – answers below.
Cricket books probably give the best opportunities for this approach – “All Round View” (Imran Khan), “A False Stroke of Genius” (Wayne Larkins), “The Gloves Are Off” (Godfrey Evans), “Lasting the Pace” (Bob Willis), “Runs in the Family” (John Edrich) and “Over and Out” (Denis Lillee) being some good examples. Some puns can be unforgivable – a serial offender was Graham Dilley with “Swings and Roundabouts” and “Hick and Dilley Circus”, but there are others – “No Bull” (Andy Bichel) and “Playing it Straight” (Ken Barrington) take a bow. One cricket title is so obvious that it has been used more than once – Geoff Boycott, Glenn Turner and Mike Atherton all used “Opening Up”. I wonder if Alastair Cook will be tempted to follow in a great tradition.
Rugby and football also provide opportunities for the play on words – “Centre of Excellence” (Jim Renwick), “Rubbing Shoulders” (Phil Blakeway) and “Kicked Into Touch” (Paul Thorburn) being a few from rugby. Football books include “Heading For Victory” (Steve Bruce),
“Leaping To Fame” (Peter Bonetti), “By The Book” (Clive Thomas), “Back At The Top” (Bill Foulkes) and “Managing My Life” (Alex Ferguson).
Of course, the lure is far stronger if the title hints at some far more interesting extra-curricular activity – “No Half Measures” (Graeme Souness), “Wasted?” (Paul Smith), “Rock Bottom” (Paul Merson), “Fast and Loose” (Martin Offiah), “Back From The Brink” (Paul McGrath) and my favourite, “One Hump or Two?” (Frank Worthington).
It is surely no coincidence that two not so legendary “characters” of British sport, Steve Davis and Nick Faldo, have chosen puns – Faldo twice, with “Life Swings” and “The Rough With The Smooth”. Given his more colourful private life, these are probably well chosen. Another common approach is to incorporate your name into the pun, such as “Pat On The Back” (Pat Eddery), “Hunt For Goals” (Roger Hunt) and “Ball of Fire” (Alan Ball) – which was also used by “Fiery” Fred Trueman.
Terry Downes came up with the inspired title “My Bleeding Business” for his 1964 autobiography but how is it possible that John Prescott was the first to come up with “Pulling No Punches”? Come on you ex-boxers, it is time to put your hat in the ring. My new autobiography, “Magnus Bowles ‘Em Out”, which includes full details of each of my six wickets this season as well as some revealing stories from the pub afterwards, will be in the shops soon.
The answers to the Titles quiz above:
“The Breaks Are Off” – Graeme Swann (off-break bowler)
“Running Commentary” – David Moorcroft (distance runner and commentator)
“I Declare” – Mike Denness (cricketer and England captain)
“Right Back To The Beginning” – Jimmy Armfield (footballer who normally played at right back)
“In The Long Run” – Jim Peters (distance runner)
“In Safe Keeping” – Alex Stepney (goalkeeper)
How many male footballers can be described as an England World Cup Winner?! Very few, but Ray Wilson could. An England player, who started his career with Huddersfield Town, Wilson died a few days ago at 83. He was a quiet, modest, key member of England’s 1966 winning football team.
England’s men’s football team winning the World Cup is not something many people today have experienced or remember and, if truth be told, can easily imagine happening now! Maybe we need to go back to basics and learn a few lessons from the likes of Ray Wilson and his background.
Ray Wilson grew up in Shirebrook, a small mining pit village in Derbyshire. In his own football autobiography, he describes his childhood as, “Back street football. A paper round. A punch on the nose. This was my heritage.” He also noted that, “We had no toys but…all we ever needed was a ball.” He worked hard, kept his head down and managed to break through to professional football in 1952. Wilson went on to play under four great managers: Bill Shankly; Harry Catterick; Walter Winterbottom and, of course, Sir Alf Ramsey. Along with winning the World Cup, he helped Everton win the FA Cup too in 1966: the championships were just six weeks apart!
Ray Wilson was the oldest member of England’s World Cup squad in 1966 at 31. He retired from football five years later. He returned to Huddersfield with his family and became an undertaker. How times really have changed! Ray Wilson had an immensely successful football career and yet always retained a humble, modest, footballing approach. The only thing flashy about Ray was his name: called after his mother’s favourite Hollywood star, his first name was actually Ramon. Try pulling that one off, growing up in a Derbyshire pit village in the 1940s! It seems particularly poignant to say goodbye to Ray Wilson as we ‘limber up’ for the start of the 2018 World Championship in Russia. Maybe Today’s England team will show that humility, doggedness and resilience too…
The Winter Olympics are not often the scene for British sporting triumphs. At this year’s Olympics we have 4 medals to date, one of which is gold. We may possibly win another medal, which would make the Pyeongchang Olympics our most successful Winter Olympics ever.
We have, however, managed a few sporting coups at the Winter Olympics over the years. One of the greatest and most surprising might be Britain’s gold medal at the 1936 Olympics in Germany. The British men’s ice hockey team beat the then reigning champions, Canada, that year. Canada had won the event for four preceding, consecutive Olympics. Britain had, in fact, a spectacularly successful ice hockey team at the time. It was the first team to become Olympic, World and European Champions, all in the same year.
The 1936 Winter Olympics was notable in its own right. Held in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany, it was the last time that a winter and summer Olympics was held in the same country in the same year. Hitler was, of course, Germany’s leader at this time. Months before the winter games an English reporter visited Garmisch-Partenkirchen. He saw several signs, saying ‘Jews not wanted’ and ‘Jews not allowed’ in the village. He took a photo of one of them above the Partenkirchen ski clubhouse. The photo was published throughout the world.
A movemement formed in the US to boycott the Garmisch-Partenkirchen Olympics. It threatened the entire German Olympic Project. Germany could not risk countries pulling out of their planned Olympics showcase in Berlin months later. So Berlin ordered all anti-semitic signs and posters removed in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and presented themselves to the outside world as a ‘friendly dictatorship’. Their ice hockey captain was , in fact, Jewish, the only Jew to represent Germany at the Games. The British ice hockey team even performed a Nazi salute during the Games out of ‘respect to their hosts, the German People’.
Of course ice hockey at the Olympics has the power to surprise in 2018 too. The appearance of a united North and South Korean women’s ice hockey team has definitely earned the term ‘historic’. They may not have won any medals – or any games! – but they certainly won the prize for most rapturous and warm reception at this year’s Olympic Games. Long live Olympics upsets and surprises – they’re a huge part of the Games’ appeal.
Footballers are on the move again in this month’s football transfer window. Remember the first £1 million transfer deal, done in 1979? Legendary Nottingham Forest manager, Brian Clough bought Trevor Francis from Birmingham City for £1,180,000 including VAT and fees. Francis’ deal was double the amount received by Liverpool when Kevin Keegan was sold to Hamburg only two years earlier.
It’s hard to understand how football transfer fees have increased so extraordinarily over the last 40 years. Manchester United’s reputed, present £25 million bid for Arsenal’s Sanchez seems almost modest next to Coutinho’s recent £142 million and Neymar’s £222 million transfer fees.
It’s worth remembering too that Trevor Francis arguably sang for his £1 million ‘supper’ by subsequently helping
Nottingham Forest to win the European Cup in 1979 and 1980. How easy is it to prove you’re worth £222 million…or are we just suffering from a self-effacing, lack of self-confidence?!
Your first Christmas teaser that can be answered from an item of sports memorabilia in our Christmas catalogue…
An edition of the Bulletin of the Military Historical Society for May 1973 (SKU 63262) explains all. On page 119 is an account of an extraordinary cricket match that took place in Shillinglee, Sussex, in 1855. The 2nd Royal Surrey Militia team were dismissed for 0, a record that has been equalled but can never be beaten.
Paperback. 8vo. 32pp. Very good condition.
A correspondent to the Bulletin gives a great account of how the record was achieved. Since then, teams have tried hard to achieve the same kind of record. It was left to a Kent team in 2016 to get closest in an indoor county chanpionship match. Bapchild Cricket Club were bowled out for 0 in just 20 balls by Christ Church University in Canterbury – a fairly unenviable achievement by Bapchild CC!
Is politics a logical next step after a successful career in sports? Former athletes, Lord Coe, Sir Menzies Campbell, Sir Chris Chataway and Kate Hoey have certainly all achieved. We looked at the careers of three exceptional, past cricketers too to gauge potential success. Results were mixed!
It’s almost an insult to classify CB Fry as ‘just’ a cricketer. He was one of the most consummate all-round sportsmen Britain has ever produced. A brilliant scholar too, he won 12 blues in different sports at Oxford and earned the nicknames, ‘Almighty’ and ‘Lord Oxford’. He was a talented golfer, rugby player, swimmer, tennis player, javelin thrower, sculler and boxer. He played football for Southampton too.
England cricket can be grateful that Fry decided to focus his sports career on cricket. Captain of Sussex and England, England never lost a Test match when CB was at the helm. CB Fry was at his peak in 1901 when he totalled 3,147 runs, an average of over 78 runs per innings. He scored 13 100s and created a record of 6 centuries in 6 consecutive innings in little more than 14 days. England were still looking for him to captain their side when he decided to retire at 49 in 1921.
Fry’s foray into politics was not quite so successful. He failed 3 times to become a Liberal MP. In 1934 he was charmed by Hitler in a meeting with him and Ribbentrop. Reportedly Fry tried to persuade Hitler and Ribbentrop that the Nazis should take up Test cricket. Possibly Fry’s greatest political hope was the offer of the vacant throne of Albania in 1920s. He was offered it while at the League of Nations as secretary to India’s then delegate, one RS Ranjitsinhji. Unfortunately in order to accept, he needed to have an income of £10,000 p.a. and Fry was notoriously short of money throughout his life. Hence no Charles III of Albania in the history books!
Another captain of Sussex and England dipped his toe into politics too, one Ted Dexter. An aggressive, swashbuckling cricketer – again, among many other accomplishments – Dexter decided to enter politics in 1964. England captain at the time, Dexter declared himself unavailable for the 1964-65 South Africa tour because he expected to become an MP in the 1964 election.
He became the Conservative candidate for Cardiff South East, pitting himself against the then Shadow chancellor, one James Callaghan. Callaghan had been the sitting candidate since the constituency was created in 1950. Cardiff South East was then a community of principally dockers and factory workers. Dexter, or Lord Ted as he was nicknamed early on for his aloof self-confidence, did not appeal massively to his potential consituents. His comment that Labour-voting households “could be identified by their grubby lace curtains and unwashed milk bottles on the doorstep” was not a vote winner either.
At the election, Callaghan increased his majority from 868 to just under 8,000. Luckily Dexter was able to return to his day job and joined the South Africa tour as vice captain after all. He made 344 runs in 7 Test innings, an average of 57.
We have to turn to the great Pakistani cricketer, Imran Khan for a more established political foothold. Khan made his debut for Pakistan when he was 18 in 1971 at Birmingham during their England tour. He then played for them from 1976 – 1992, captaining the side during that period too. As captain, he led Pakistan to victory at the 1992 Cricket World Cup, Pakistan’s first and only victory in that competition. Imran Khan retired in 1992 as one of Pakistan’s most successful players. He scored 3,807 runs and took 362 wickets in Test cricket.
In 1996 Imran Khan founded the Pakistan Movement of Justice Party, the PTI and became the party’s leader. Over the last twenty years he has ridden the turbulent waves of Pakistan politics to take his party to become the 2nd largest party in the National Assembly in 2013. Since then his political influence has continued to ebb and flow with the twists and turns of his country’s politics. He has, in any case, achieved significantly, but these sportsmen make it clear to us that politics is an even greater minefield to success than becoming an international sportsman or woman. Given the chance, we know which career path we’d choose!